2019. Helping more people. More quickly…

Regardless of your political persuasion, our evidence suggests that demand for our services has increased as a direct result of the issues surrounding Brexit, and the time this has taken away from looking for solutions to the other issues facing the UK. In fact, in the last quarter of 2018 applications for grants increased by 40% year-on-year and there was a 12% rise in calls to our helpline. People are worried.

We are seeing an increased demand from applicants who have applied for Universal Credit, most facing weeks of uncertainty before receiving a payment. This leaves us wondering….. How can we help more people more quickly?

One practical thing we can do is to simplify the criteria around who is eligible for our help, which is why we have tweaked our eligibility criteria.

From now, to be considered for our help, you must either be working in the industry right now, or have worked in the industry for at least five years in your entire career. This replaces ‘Worked within the industry for either one continuous year in the past five; for seven years in their lifetime’ criteria which was both confusing some applicants and taking up vast amounts of time for our caseworkers to verify.

It might not sound much, but this simple change will enable us to more quickly respond to grant applications from people whose need is even more pressing than ever due to the current situation.

Of course, any change like this can’t just be implemented over night, so any grant application already received that qualified under the old criteria will still be processed.

HA’s 2018 in five defining moments …

It’s a year, now, since I moved from The Caterer to Hospitality Action. I thought I’d round off 2018 by capturing my thoughts on the past twelve months. Here’s my 2018 in five defining moments.

When the chips are down, sometimes only chips will help 

Back in January, as I was trying to get my head around the sheer breadth of services our charity offers, a colleague suggested I rifle through the “thank you” file. In it, I found a note, handwritten in pencil, from a little boy called Liam. Liam and his dad had enjoyed a family day out to the cinema on us and had written to thank us. Our Family Days Out scheme gives families that are under the cosh a little ‘us’ time, a chance to regroup in the face of ongoing difficulties.

Liam’s thank-you letter hit home: for the cost of a couple of cinema tickets, some pop, a bag of chips and a ride on the bus, we’d given Liam and his dad a memory to treasure.

Liam’s story demonstrates how support can come in many shapes and sizes.

As well as Family Days Out, we run our Golden Friends scheme to keep loneliness and isolation at bay for industry retirees. We offer an Employee Assistance Programme that helps employers keep their teams happy, healthy and work-ready. We award grants to people in financial difficulty. We facilitate a phone friends scheme that provides lifelines for the elderly. And we offer bespoke counselling for a wide range of issues.

As hotelier Sally Beck said in February, once you understand what we do, you fall in love with us!

Enter Mitchell … 

By his own admission, until his life hit a bump in the road, Mitchell Collier thought he was the last sort of person HA helps. Young, healthy, forging a career at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, he felt indestructible. It turned out he was exactly the kind of person HA helps.

In early 2017, Mitchell’s health and confidence took three body blows: his relationship broke down, he was overlooked for a promotion, and he received a cancer diagnosis. HA arranged for counselling to put Mitchell back on his feet. By Spring of this year, he was back on track, and he approached us to volunteer as a case study. The resulting video drew an enormous response on social media. An HA star was born.

Too often, the perception of HA is that we exist solely to help drunk or substance-addicted chefs. Of course, we do help chefs with addiction issues, and anybody else fir that matter, and we’re proud to do so. But that’s just a small part of what we do. We help people with all sorts of problems, from all types of business, in all spheres of hospitality.

Mitchell’s generosity of spirit and willingness to act as an ambassador for HA was a crucial development. He debunked the myth, once and for all, that HA is for other people.

A social whirl for a good cause …  

Principal patron, Jason Atherton had already been running Social Sunday for three years, when I joined HA. The summer fundraising initiative across his London restaurants was his way of supporting the charity, and had already raised many tens of thousands of pounds for us.

This year, Jason and I drew a line in the sand: from 2018 onwards, we agreed, Social Sunday would be opened up to the whole industry. Our vision was to establish a date in the hospitality calendar when the industry looks to itself, and looks after its own.

The response was heart-warming. From Leith to Land’s End, hospitality operators concocted their own ways to support Social Sunday. In the end, more than 50 businesses across the country took part, raising a huge amount of money in then process.

In 2019, Jason and I plan to go nuclear with Social Sunday. Watch this space.

The mental health imperative 

In May, we marked Mental Health Awareness Week  by hosting an event at the Royal Lancaster London, to shine a light on the issue of stress in the hospitality workplace. Research conducted before the event suggested that a worrying 80% of hospitality professionals regard their job as stressful sometimes or most of the time, while 51% – over half! – described their job as being stressful most or all of the time.

The event and its ripples across social media proved – as if proof were needed – that there’s a ticking mental health time bomb under UK hospitality.

On World Mental Health Day in October, two Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains blogged for us and set a lofty goal:

“Beyond our four walls, we are fortunate to have Hospitality Action to support people in our industry through the hardest of times. Together with HA, we can break the stigmas that stop so many people asking for help and create an environment where people feel they have both the support of their line manager or a friendly ear at the end of HA’s action line.”

Amen to that, Sat. This’ll be a clear goal for us next year.

The need for help never goes away … 

Like the magic porridge pot in the children’s tale, the HA in-tray never seems to get any emptier. This winter, the delays around universal credit payments and the continuing fear, uncertainty and doubt around Brexit have sparked a steep rise in requests for support from HA.

Into 2019, we’ll move Heaven and Earth to help as many people as we can – but we’ll need your support in this. I look forward to working with you next year, to make UK hospitality a happier, healthier and more nourishing place.

Meanwhile, Happy Christmas from the whole HA team.

Debt and un-seasonal visitors

Sadly, we continue to receive many calls from hospitality people who are living in fear of a visit from the bailiffs. In the UK 1 in 14 adults are in problem debt, and the financial pressures of the festive season often add to that burden regardless of whether there are extra shifts available during December.

Callers often complain of aggressive language in letters and intimidating behaviour from bailiffs on the doorstep. Debts can quickly spiral beyond control and leave people bewildered and at risk of having property re-possessed.

This issue has attracted national interest with people like  Martin Lewis the ‘Money Saving Expert’ calling for a change in the law to address the risk of suicide as a result of financial worries. A change in the law is something we’d applaud.

If you or a colleague is worried about mounting debt, there are lots of ways we can help you.

The first thing to do is not panic – pick up the phone and call our 24/7 helpline on 0808 802 0282 – we can give you practical advice to help get things back on track.

Specialist debt advice – working with our partner PayPlan we can help you come to terms with your debt levels and look at your best route forwards.

Psychological support – money matters can be stressful and put pressure on all aspects of daily life. We’re here to provide a friendly ear and practical advice.

Hardship grants – You may qualify for a grant to help you with household expenses to provide a little financial breathing space

Winter fuel grants (for working age and retired people) – fuel poverty is a real issue at this time of year, you may qualify for a grant to help with spiralling energy costs.

The stress caused by debt can be stressful and in extreme cases, life threatening so if you or a colleague are worried call us on 0808 802 0282 or for information on our grants visit the Grants page on our website or call the grants team on 020 3004 5500.

Do we all have charity in us?

We all have a different idea about what charity is, how we see ourselves getting involved and what we are prepared to do. Charity doesn’t always mean that you have to part with your hard earned cash. Charity also means awareness, consideration and compassion. Charity is a feeling that drives you to give, but ask nothing in return. With most people charity is that feeling of satisfaction, belonging, believe and honour. Charity involvement should be fun, it should inspire creative thinking, but can also sometimes mean hard work, physical training, sweat and pure exhaustion.

Have you found your charity and what are you prepared to do?

I joined the fundraising team at Hospitality Action last year in January. I found myself straight into the deep end, learning the job whilst running through my daily tasks and supporting an organisation celebrating its 180th Birthday year. I loved every moment of it right from the start and I still do. I believe that challenges are opportunities. Every single person we have helped gives me job satisfaction. Working for a charity, I am not in it for the money, but I am all about raising the money and raising awareness. For our beneficiaries financial help doesn’t just mean that the bills are getting paid, or they had a nice family day out or a nice afternoon tea with retired colleagues, because everyone deserves a dignified standard of life, needs a helping hand at times to boost their self-respect and confidence to empower them to continue their fight, survive and become independent again.

Everyone working in the hospitality industry should know who Hospitality Action is. If you do, spread the word, talk about us with your colleagues, look us up on our website, call us and have a chat. We are not a union, but after 181 years helping the people of our industry we have a very good idea about the kind of problems they face and more importantly, we have the solutions. We don’t just listen, we offer a plan, financial help, confidential professional advice, a get together, phone friends, HR support through our Employees Assistance Programme which is vast. We support employees and employers. We are all in it together and we have to make it work. After all, when you think about it, we spend most of our awake time working to pay for our living. We strive to find a balance and we believe in equality.

     

What really matters are the people we help, their real lives, their real problems and the difference we make. Working or retired, anywhere in the UK, any job within hospitality, we are here to offer support.

If you are reading this but don’t need support, then unite with us to make working in the hospitality industry a happy, safe and positive experience. Put a team together, run 10K, ride 40 miles, come up with your unique idea of team building activity, organise an event, donate an auction prize, join our EAP, make a cash donation, raise awareness, become a member, sign up for our newsletter, do something and have fun whilst raising money doing it, if you are a business nominate us as your charity of the year.

We have to raise the money to keep going as an organisation and fill the pot to pay out grants to those who need it and also pay for all the other services we offer. Our charity doesn’t receive government funding or many other grants. Last year we raised enough money to sustain and we spent £741,273 supporting the people in need from the industry we love.

Hospitality Action, our charity, has to make business sense to survive and continue to strive. So you see, it is a joint effort.

Take a moment, find the charity in you, what does charity mean to you and decide what are you prepared to do?

If you have charity in you we want to hear from you fundraising@hospitalityaction.org.uk

If you are a supporter, we thank you, you make our work possible! We would love to hear from you why you choose to support us.

Lands End to John o’ Groats: charting Hospitality Action’s nationwide reach

Hospitality Action? It’s that charity for chefs working in London and the Southeast, right?”

Wrong. And wrong.

Hospitality Action helps anyone who works or has worked in hospitality, and finds themselves in crisis.

Yes, we help chefs; but we also help restaurateurs, hotel workers and bar staff. Moreover, we support hospitality professionals at every level of operations: whether you work in a Premier Inn or at The Ritz, whether you serve Michelin-starred dishes or hospital meals, we’ve got you.

As for any geographical bias, the chart above speaks for itself. Last year, 18% of our spend in 2017 was in the Southwest, 14% in the Northeast, 13% in the Northwest, 10% in Scotland and 8% in Wales.

They say charity begins at home. Rest assured, wherever you call home, from Dublin to Dunfermline, Penzance to Penarth, we’re here for you.

Work does not protect families from falling into crisis

New analysis on foodbank use, in conjunction with the Trussell Trust, has highlighted how being in work does not guarantee that you will have enough to get by. Applications for Hospitality Action’s grants are up 6% on this time last year and we are seeing increasing requests from people in work in crisis.

Our Winter Fuel Grant scheme for working people on low incomes helps ensure that people don’t have to choose between food and fuel. With the recent bad weather many people may have been worried about turning on the heat due to the cost. The grants are for £100 and applicants just need to demonstrate that they are on a limited income, have little or no savings and have a fuel bill to pay. If you or anyone you know will struggle with your winter fuel then the short WFG application form can be found here. We can accept applications until the end of March and so don’t delay. After this date help can be offered through our main grants programme.

Through our Essential Needs Grants we help with a huge variety of needs. Last week we helped Ms W who needed to equip a new home after fleeing an abusive partner, she and her children were without a working washing machine and fridge-freezer which we were apply to provide along with some furniture for the children’s bedrooms to make their house feel more like a home.

For many in our industry company sick pay is not part of their benefits package. The drop in income caused by only receiving Statutory Sick Pay of £89.35/week should they need time off due to ill health puts people in the impossible position of choosing which essential bill to pay; rent, fuel, food. This week we helped Mr & Mrs T; Mrs T is recovering from cancer and is back at work early as she could no longer afford to be off. We helped with some essential bills and they also received our Winter Fuel Grant.

To find out more about our grants programmes and to access our application form, please visit our website or call our grants team on 020 3004 5500.

HA Embraces Digital Technology

Imagine a world where there is no internet, email, websites, social media, mobile apps or smartphones! Could you survive?!

Well this is how HA worked in 1999 when I first joined! However this didn’t stop HA being a successful charity and helping raise money to help our people in the hospitality industry.

Technology has revolutionised our lives over the last few years but it has also played an important part in how charities function in the 21st century. Here are a few examples:

Before email, we communicated with our supporters and beneficiaries by telephone and post. Now we can communicate instantly to them wherever they are, whether they are using a laptop, smartphone or tablet! This allows people with problems to contact us confidentially, when, where and how they want to.

We can now help our beneficiaries much quicker as we can receive and transfer money instantly using online banking. This has especially helped those who need our emergency help.

When we run events we now use portable payment machines so we no longer have to rely solely on cash or cheque donations. This means our supporters have more flexible ways of making donations and we receive the money more quickly so it can go to those in need much faster. Contactless payment is great it makes it easy for people to give.

We use our website to advertise our services and events while our beneficiaries use it to complete grant application forms (rather than relying on ‘snail mail’ back in the day!). We also receive donations via our website which is a very simple and quick process.

Social media allows us to communicate quickly and directly with our supporters to raise awareness about key events and HA news.

The use of fundraising web sites such as Virgin Money Giving and Just Giving has helped people raise money individually for us. As these sites also do Gift Aid this reduces the administrative overhead for charities.

Our successful EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) scheme uses the latest cloud technology platform to provide a range of vital services to hospitality industry employees.

Technology has made a massive difference to our daily lives, but it has also changed the way charities operate for the better! HA embraces digital technology. Our new blogs are a great example of our latest foray into tech!